The first trophy up for grabs on the English football calendar, the League Cup boasts a rich history and its early stages always guarantee excitement. With Premier League sides not introduced until the second round, the opening matches allow teams in the lower tiers to put their name in the spotlight, with an upset on the cards given the right circumstances.
Last season saw Liverpool extend their record for most League Cup wins after they beat Chelsea at Wembley on penalties after an entertaining 1-1 draw. With both of last year’s finalists juggling domestic and European responsibilities, their schedule will be cluttered and it will give teams from the Championship, League One and even League Two a chance to march to the capital come the final in February
There’s a long way to go between now and then and with plenty to discuss from the competition’s first round, read on as we look at the main talking points in the League Cup.
Portsmouth punish the Bluebirds
As is the case every first round, a team from the lower tier hits form just in time for the cup, and in the case of Portsmouth, their exploits for promotion out of League One spelt poor timing for Cardiff City.
Having just hammered Cambridge United 4-1, Pompey made their way to Wales in inspired form and Steve Morison’s side wilted under the pressure when Joe Pigott opened the scoring on the hour mark. Further goals from Ronan Curtis and Colby Bishop sealed the rout before Vontae Daley-Campbell was sent off in the game’s dying embers.
Penalty shootout drama
As always there was plenty of penalty shootout drama in the opening round. Charlton beat Queens Park Rangers after a 1-1 draw at The Valley while Morecambe shocked Stoke, who were looking to make a promotion bid this season, albeit outsiders with the Championship predictions.
Tranmere Rovers required some magic from goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt after their 2-2 draw with Accrington Stanley went through every penalty taker – eventually finishing 12-11 when the Polish keeper stopped the game’s 26th penalty.
Norwich City edged past Birmingham City following a 2-2 draw and Oxford City shocked Swansea City when Cam Brannagan’s 93rd-minute equaliser forced extra time, with the League Two outfit coming from two goals down to beat the Championship side 5-3 on penalties.
Exeter City are a side that have been out of the limelight for quite a while now, but the way they broke the club’s record for an away win with a 7-0 thrashing of Cheltenham Town gave Grecians fans a lot to be excited about.
Four goals before the 20-minute mark put the game to bed and then Matt Taylor’s side showed their goalscoring prowess by going into the break 5-0 up, eventually racking up a magnificent seven.
Whether they can carry that form into the league remains to be seen but should Sam Nombe, who grabbed a brace on the night, continue to find the back of the net they’ll hardly be short of goals when it comes to making a push for promotion.